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Online campaigns - why the've been so poorly done, and how to run them right

By BOredAtWork in Internet
Fri May 25, 2001 at 12:58:33 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

It's been almost six months since the USA's November elections have passed, and it will be another three years until we see a presidential campaign start to take shape again. While the general public isn't thinking ahead to 2004 yet, you can be sure that various politicians, parties, special interest groups and activist organizations certainly are. This past election was the first one where the major candidates all attempted to use the internet as a major medium in their campaign. The problem is, they all failed - miserably. The major question being asked by the various groups mentioned above is "what went wrong?"

Since a truly effective online campaign has never been put together before, there's tremendous opportunity opening up for the first candidate with the guts to run one - and the technical staff that would be required to make it happen: The first person or group to make full use of the internet's unique capabilities as a medium during their campaign is most likely going to dominate the 2004 elections.

On Feb 19, 2000, slashdot ran the results of an interview with Al Gore's webmaster. I'd asked the last question of the 10 answered. I basically blasted www.algore2000.com for being a large fluff piece, providing nothing more than soundbytes and catch phrases, and asked why the site appears to take its viewers for fools. The webmaster was quite obviously unprepared to answer that question, and the hundreds of comments on that interview, along with a letter from Mr. Scott Reents, of The Democracy Project asking to quote me in a paper he was authoring convinced me that the 2000 online campaign should have been run much, much differently.

The Internet was used in the 1996 election. If I recall correctly, Bob Dole and Bill Clinton both had campaign websites. They were tastefully done, and presented information about upcoming campaign stump locations, transcripts of speeches, press releases, information about registering to vote, etc. For the time, they were quite satisfactory.

The problem is, this was also the extent of Internet use by the candidates for the 2000 campaign. Sure, Al Gore made sure to flash "www.algore2000.com" on his ads. Sure, George W. Bush mentioned his web site periodically in his speeches. Both candidates used their web sites to further distribute the soundbytes they provided in their television advertisements. Both candidates used their web sites to provide copies of the same press releases given to newspapers. The same promises made in stump speeches. The same slogans found on bumper stickers.

Neither candidate used the Internet to provide more detail about their proposals, more information on their past performance in office, more evidence to support their claims or more contact with the candidate himself. The online campaign of 2000 was an utter failure compared to what it could -- and should -- have been.

Television and radio provide candidates with a way to push a time-limited message to a small segment of the population: viewers or listeners who happen to be using the chosen station at the chosen time on the chosen day in the chosen area. Candidates can say a few words, show a few pictures (in the case of television), and use a catchy slogan -- and if they do it often enough, it's possible that their name will be the one that jumps to mind when the voter enters the voting booth. These ads are severely limited by time and their high price, so their message must be extremely brief.

Print media (newspapers, magazines, fliers, billboards, direct mailings, etc) allow candidates to provide more detailed information, more pictures, and possibly some numbers regarding their proposals. They also have their limitations -- number of words, number of pages, potential distribution and the fact that many people won't take a significant amount of time read an overly wordy message.

The Internet faces none of the constraints of TV, radio or print advertising. A candidate could make his entire life's story available, along with more information on his past performance and future ideas than a whole team of political analysts could possibly wade through during the length of the campaign. A candidate could provide one 'catch-all' page that would let Joe Voter see where he stands on the important issues in less time that it would take Joe to listen to a 30 second TV commercial. Candidates thus far have done neither of these.

The golden rule of designing a web site -- or running a campaign -- is to keep your intended audience in mind at all times. The 2000 candidates' web sites (www.georgewbush.com and www.algore2000.com) don't appear to have been designed with their audience in mind. The audience for the candidate web sites was much more broad than the designers anticipated. There were senior citizens, teens, blacks, whites, singles, couples, rich, poor, and every combination of these -- all looking for varying levels of information about the candidate. Many of these folks were disappointed by what they found, or more likely, didn't find.

There were site visitors like me, who wanted to access specifics -- copies of proposals, past voting records, debate transcripts, and comments from various experts regarding the candidate's proposals, to name a few things -- the sites didn't provide this information. I came away from both sites heavily disappointed that all I could find was "Al Gore supports technology innovation", and not anything regarding his support or non-support of the DMCA, CDA, and other previous tech-related bills. There were site viewers like my younger brother, who just turned 18 and has very little interest in politics. He just wanted to see what Bush and Gore had to say about college tuition breaks. He came away disappointed at having found only that Gore and Bush "supported education" without saying whether or not they would make federal student grant money more or less selective. There were site visitors like the ones I saw in Virginia Tech's library who were just trying to get a feel for the candidate's general personality, who came away disappointed in finding nothing more than the standard press release biographical information on the candidates.

While ads in other media can be taylored to a specific audience, the audience for the candidate web sites was too broad to allow this. Some people wanted details, some wanted an overview, and everyone was concerned with a different issue. Instead of attempting to address all these variations in their audience, the candidate web site designers decided to design their site with a "general" audience in mind -- Joe American. This was their first mistake. From what I can gather off the sites (you'll have to turn to see; they figured Joe to be of average income, intelligence, and with average interest in politics. This is understandable. What they forgot, however, is that Joe American could get all the information he wanted by reading the newspaper, or watching the evening news. Joe American is the audience the tv and print folks worked to target. What the candidate web sites should have done was enhance the campaign being run on television and in print.

Joe American was taken care of by the more mainstream media. The folks who should have been targetted by the online campaign are the ones that slip through the cracks of the mainstream campaign: those who don't watch much TV, those who don't subscribe to a newspaper, those who want more detailed information about a candidate or an issue. Neither candidate's campaign in 2000 did this well, and who learns to do it well the fastest could quite possibly may become the deciding factor in the 2004 presidential election.

The obvious question becomes: "what would it take to run an online campaign well?" In a nutshell, one would have to plan early, and quite likely have to be prepared to spend big. To elaborate, I think there are three key things any successful online campaign should do. Each one assumes a standard mainstream media campaign also being run before the election. If the three are done well, I believe that the campaign would reach many more voters than any we've seen so far.

  • Provide details about a candidate's past voting record

    To provide details about a candidate's past legislative votes and his rationale, the potential candidate should start recording the information now. It could be quite simple -- he casts a vote, then spend 15 minutes with a secretary dictating his reasons for voting the way he did. Have the secretary enter the information into a database, along with the text of the bill. Have a web site dedicated to allowing users to access this information, by searching on vote date, bill text, the candidate's comments, and anything else that could possibly be relevant. When election time rolls around, the candidate can say "go to my web site, see how I've voted on bills concerning this idea and why I voted that way" rather than "go to my web site, and see that I've said that I support this idea." Of course, this candidate would have to have nothing to hide in their past votes and would have to have a team of engineers to keep the system running smoothly.

  • Provide more insight into the candidate as a person

    To provide more insight into the candidate as a person, the candidate should start keeping some form of online journal now. A brief entry every few days regarding his concerns ("I'm not sure how to vote on Bill X next week..."), comments ("I hope the folks back home know that Bill Y is really important to their future") and general information ("Gee, I really think the traffic in DC is awful") would be sufficient. The goal would be to have the candidate be able to point to past journal entries and say "look how far-seeing I am; I anticipated this problem," or "I share your concerns -- see?" The public could read whatever interested them, and get a much better feel for the candidate if this is done properly. Again, this candidate would have to have nothing to hide, and employ a good technical staff and most likely a few writers.

  • Allow and encourage public discussion with the candidate

    Most importantly, there would have to be some way to allow public discussion/debate on the candidate's web site. If this is done well, the candidate would be able to write a bit about an idea, read responses from potential voters and carry on a dialog with them. Something like the K5 moderation system would probably be good here -- allow the community to decide what concerns they would like addressed most, and have the candidate start with those. To implement this would take a top notch technical staff, as well as a very very well spoken candidate.

In summary, a successful online campaign would have to be run by a very open candidate with a flair for the written word and a technical staff with amazing skill. It's certainly not an easy task to find either of these, but if they can ever come together, we could for the first time see what a truly successful online campaign can be.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Slashdot
o interview with Al Gore's webmaster
o The Democracy Project
o a paper he was authoring
o www.george wbush.com
o www.algore 2000.com
o Also by BOredAtWork

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Online campaigns - why the've been so poorly done, and how to run them right | 57 comments (54 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1, FP (3.00 / 6) (#1)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:17:44 PM EST

But only so I won't feel guilty about not having read it. It's still only May 2001, for crying out loud--I'm not ready to talk about politics yet.

BTW, at the time anyway, people said that The Body ran a successful online campaign. In fact, the claim (at the time) was that that was the ONLY reason he had won.

Play 囲碁
Bah. (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by BOredAtWork on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:24:46 PM EST

It's still only May 2001, for crying out loud--I'm not ready to talk about politics yet.

Which is the reason why candidates ought to be thinking ahead. You're not ready to be blasted with political ads, debates, etc, and neither are most other people. The problem is, politicians will be starting to campaign in another 3 years, and to run an online campaign right, they'd have to start soon. As people start wanting more information, it has to already be available. Both major party candidates in 2000 played catchup for the most part - they made information available as it became desired, rather than being ahead of the game. When you ARE ready to talk about politics, you're going to want to know why you should vote for candidate X - and the best way for them to convince you is with a proven track record, which they should be recording NOW.

[ Parent ]

Darnit! You beat me to it! (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:25:40 PM EST

The ten minutes I took finding the url for the Ventura/Strunk campaign let you get the draw on me. Crud!

[ Parent ]
It's already started... (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by ScuzzMonkey on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:37:18 PM EST

It's still only May 2001, for crying out loud--I'm not ready to talk about politics yet

Maybe not, but it's still pretty topical... because the campaign cycle keeps extending, and anyone who is serious about running in the mid-terms is already feeling out backers and assembling lists for staff positions.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

The first serious internet campaign (4.20 / 5) (#3)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:24:16 PM EST

It was widely reported that the first serious use of the internet for a US political campaign was done by Jesse Ventura and Mae Strunk in their bid for governor and lietenant governor of Minnesota. You can vist their 1998 Campaign Web Site on Jesse's vanity page.

One aspect of the campaign that doesn't come through in the web site is that IRC and email were used extensively to coordinate speeches and town-hall style meetings for the Ventura/Strunk campaign. That is what all the buzz was about in 1998, how the Ventura/Strunk campaign took guerilla marketing to an unparallelled extent in a political campaign.

Ventura's site (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:53:52 PM EST

I remember checking that site out before the election and being very impressed at how he'd provided explicit and detailed position statements on a large number of important issues. It wasn't the only site I saw that wasn't full of waffly fluff.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Finance Reform (4.00 / 8) (#5)
by eann on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:25:21 PM EST

Contributions to an election are public record. I want to see a candidate post his entire campaign budget. How much money he's making, how much of it comes from corporate sponsors (and which ones), and what he's spending it on.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

didn't Bush do this? (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by cory on Thu May 24, 2001 at 05:14:59 PM EST

I seem to recall he made at least his contributor list availible via PDF, though I don't think he put up what he was spending how much on what.


[ Parent ]
Good for as far as it goes... (4.40 / 10) (#7)
by ScuzzMonkey on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:33:26 PM EST

I liked the article, and voted +1FP, but the author misses or ignores several critical facets of modern campaigns. Having worked on a couple, here's my take:

The web does not yet, and probably will not ever, impact a significant percentage of voters. This has a couple of effects on campaign staff--one, as an advertising medium, it's not nearly as important to spend money on as radio or TV; you're just not going to get the same return on investment. Two, you're largely going to be preaching to the choir; the site may be constructed to reinforce already committed voters, but it's not going to pull too many people who aren't already interested. Three, the author is dead wrong about the audience on the web being too broad for targeting. The web use demographic numbers are far tighter than any radio or TV spots you'll ever find; white male professionals are pretty much it, although granted this is changing. That demo may be important in some races, but not most--it doesn't contain many swing voters. All of this will push a thoughtful campaign staff away from spending money on putting together this author's ideal website. Doing it right costs money that could be better spend on TV.

While I personally would love to see more detailed information available for candidate proposals, it's both unlikely and something of a chimera. Unlikely, because specifics that one crowd likes, another hates--modern politics is largely the art of running on vaporware. Say generally agreeable things and don't get too specific because someone will call you on it. A chimera, because a candidate's specific proposals will never be implemented--the political process requires compromise; so, really, when a candidate is saying he is in favor of something by voicy mealy-mouthed platitudes, he's telling you just as much about the eventual outcome as a specific proposal would--absolutely nothing. You can get an idea of his or her bent, but that's about all. You might get a straight-shooter like John McCain or some such to put up a really informative, useful site, but I don't think you'll be seeing most candidates allowing themselves to get pinned down on the issues that way.

The author speaks exclusively of the advertising aspects of the web, but the really attractive use of campaign websites, and where I think the real untapped potential lies, is for fundraising. Campaigns already prefer credit card donations, because they're in the bank immediately and there is a near-zero renege rate, something that you'll never see with more traditional check pledges. Combine credit card donations with a fully automated website and presto! your phone bank expenses disappear. Makes my mouth water just thinking about the efficiencies. You'll probably still have direct calls, but instead of the phoner spending time having to take down card information, he or she can just ask if the person has web access, and point them right at the site. Plus you plaster the URL all over every piece of mail and literature you generate.

Anyway; a thoughtful article, for as far as it goes. While I sympathize with the author's views, I think they're unlikely to come to pass.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)

Planning ahead (4.00 / 3) (#12)
by BOredAtWork on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:54:11 PM EST

In 1996, the internet demographic was almost exclusively professional white male. The problem is, it's not "changing" so much as "has changed". I hate AOL and Microsoft as much as the next guy, but face it, they've brought computers to a lot of people. Sure, not all of them can teach courses in how to use them, but most are perfectly able to type something into a search field. In 1996, the political campaign sites were more of a curiosity than anything else. They reinforced messages that were already delivered elsewhere. But in 2000, the "internet demographic" changed drastically. Now it includes nearly everyone with a computer.

Look here. 56% of the adult population has internet access. Hell, I believe the percentage of citizens who bother to come out and VOTE is less than that. That's a pretty telling statistic, but what's REALLY important is that 73% of kids 12-17 have net access. Give them 4 years, and they're voters. They've grown up with the net, and they're accustomed to using it to find detailed information. The type of online campaign that was run in 2000 simply will not work in 2004. Too many people will be expecting more.

[ Parent ]

That's a good point... (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by ScuzzMonkey on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:16:30 PM EST

But I don't think it really alters the basis of my argument. Even given a broader demo to work with, it's not going to be worth the money to use the web as an advertisement.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]
return on investment (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by greycat on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:16:23 PM EST

as an advertising medium, it's not nearly as important to spend money on as radio or TV; you're just not going to get the same return on investment.

The major investment in maintaining a good web site is not money, it's labor. Any decent candidate should be able to attract volunteers to perform the labor for free, not counting expenses.

Beyond that, it's only a few thousand dollars for the entire campaign to host at a good colocation facility. Remember, this web site only has to be at the colocation for a year or so -- in the non-election years, it can be hosted in a much less expensive location, because it will get very few hits.

Given the cost of television advertising, I think that a good web site would provide much better return on investment, dollar-for-dollar.

And to those who say that the web doesn't reach a very broad audience right now: remember that the Internet is still growing at a tremendous rate. I don't know if it's still exponential, but it's fast. How many of you were using dial-up modems a year ago? I was. Now I've got DSL at home, for the same price I paid for a dial-up account plus a second phone line. My wife chats with one of her co-workers on the Internet at night, and neither one of them knows much about computers. A lot of her friends are getting their first or second computers, and their first Internet experience, right now.

By the time 2004 rolls around, I'd be quite shocked if as many as 50% of the American voters have no Internet access. Yeah, most of the people who do have Internet access may not use it on a regular basis, but it's there. And like the author of this article says, people are trying to use the Web to get information on candidates, even if they have to do so in a public computer lab.

[ Parent ]
Bingo! (none / 0) (#43)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 04:53:14 PM EST

I know someone who worked on the website for the Forbes 2000 campaign. While all of the workers on the web site were paid for their service, the web site was gratis to the Forbes campaign as the owner of the company's way of donating to Forbes' presidential bid.

Serious campaigns get all sorts of donations in kind.

[ Parent ]

Volunteers for grunt work only (none / 0) (#50)
by ScuzzMonkey on Tue May 29, 2001 at 03:32:53 PM EST

Having worked on one or two disasterous projects where campaigns attempted to use volunteers for technical expertise, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and I would guess that most campaign pros would tell you the same. You use volunteers to stuff envelopes, answer phones, and beat on doors. You don't use them to produce TV spots, talking points, or websites.

Someone mentioned something about in-kind donations, and that's true, but it's a different breed of cat. If you've got a reputable web design firm willing to put your site together for you, you're certainly going to take advantage of that. But allowing some bored techie to volunteer as your site admin when you don't have any handle on him, don't know his qualifications, and may lose him to a more important project at work next week, is just a bad idea.

That co-lo money is going to be spent anyway--you've got to have a site in this day and age, even if it isn't the best; I was in fact referring to labor and staff time when I was talking about money that could be better spent, and I still believe that. TV and radio will continue to give better returns for a variety of reasons. Your point that web penetration is increasing is certainly valid. But it's nowhere near TV and it won't be for the foreseeable future. Moreover, it's not nearly as targettable, either--campaigns shy away from it for the same reason as traditional advertisers. For a lot of campaigns, it doesn't matter if someone halfway around the world wants to check out your website. You need Joe Average on his couch in your district to hear about you.

And of course all of this misses the point that campaigns don't want to inform you. The web would be an awesome place for them if they did, but they don't.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

I'd have to agree (none / 0) (#46)
by Skippy on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:59:16 PM EST

A friend of mine was asked to spec out a site for one of the hotly contested house seats this last election. He did so and his whole design was geared around getting information out. The response of the the candidate and their team was something along the lines of "Jesus Christ! The last thing we want the voter to have is information!" That's not the exact quote 'cause its been a few months but its damn close to what was said.

On top of all that they were the cheapest clients on the face of the planet. My friend ended up not doing the site because they wouldn't meet his price. Anyway, my opinion of politicians was not positively impacted by being on the fringes of the whole thing. (Not that it was a good opinion to start with)

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
[ Parent ]

great ideas, but they'll never happen (4.30 / 10) (#9)
by cory on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:37:27 PM EST

I would love it if candidates were this upfront about things like voting records, their thoughts on crucial debates, and in depth statements about future problems. But, they'll never do it. Politics (at least in the US) is all about presenting as little information as possible to leave the public unable to form an intelligent opinion about anything. If people had ready access to these guys' voting records, most incumbents would be out on their ears in nothing flat.

The use of soundbites, while it pisses off most thinking people (which would by extension include most of the people on Kuro5hin), serves politicians interests too much for them to be abandoned. For some insight into this, I suggest Dick Morris's book, "The New Prince". (FYI, Morris used to work for Bill Clinton as a political advisor, and now works for Fox News, I believe.) He goes into great detail about how to "win" political debates (hint: don't provide more information, just talk more) and such.


Records (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by sigwinch on Thu May 24, 2001 at 06:43:43 PM EST

Politics (at least in the US) is all about presenting as little information as possible to leave the public unable to form an intelligent opinion about anything. If people had ready access to these guys' voting records, most incumbents would be out on their ears in nothing flat.
Ah, but someone with time on their hands and a few hundred dollars can do it for them. It isn't a question of whether or not their information will be on the web, it's a question of who will put it there. Massive databases, fast CPUs, cheap surveillance, and cheap data transport are becoming more ubiquitous every day.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Ahh, but you forget... (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by ti dave on Fri May 25, 2001 at 03:23:08 AM EST

that many votes over controversial topics (i.e. the ones you'd likely care about) are not roll-call votes. Yea or Nay, whoever is louder.

Yes, I'm aware that the roll-call can be demanded, but pols don't like to use it for fear of it backfiring on them in the future.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Comments of another candidate, Ralph Nader (4.30 / 10) (#10)
by Osama Bin Laden on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:46:17 PM EST

Ralph Nader's site tended to have a little more content than either Bush's or Gore's, but still it wasn't a compelling campaign tool. In fact, after the campaign, Nader suggested he wouldn't have invested so much in the web if he had to do it over again:
Q: Do you have any regrets - things you might have done differently, with the benefit of hindsight?

Nader: [...W]e had six people working full-time in front of a computer, going into major constituency group, that we thought might resonate with our agenda - agriculture, environment, labor. We know now that the Internet didn't increase the overall turnout. There was massive use of the Internet by all parties, but turnout barely went up. So I'm not sure that was a good use of their time.


I, for one, was disappointed by Ralph's site (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:02:35 PM EST

Coming from the same campaign that brought the guerilla chicken hecklers to dog the demopublicans over the debate issues and the mastercard parody television ads, I was very disappointed by the lack of innovation in the Nader 2000 web site. News on appearances often appeared at the last moment, or worse, after the fact. There was no cohesiveness to the campaign's presence, no way to make visitors to the site feel included.

I wonder how much of this was really lack of a strong Green party apparatus to get volunteers. The prevailing wisdom was that everyone "knew" that Nader couldn't win and that the best he was hoping for was to get federal matching funds for the Green party in 2004. Clever sound bytes about the biggest obstacle to Al Gore winning Florida being Al Gore and folks in chicken suits couldn't make up for the lack of a nation-wide grass roots campaign.

What made Ross Perot's run in 1992 so powerful was the incredible support he had from volunteers from all over the country. Perot's campain had vibrancy and energy because it had deep grass roots. Until the Green party can find that type of support, it won't have the necessary base to make an interent campaign effective.

If Nader wants to run again in 2004, what he really needs to do is make a Scoop based site and let the grass roots Greens have accounts and drive his campaign. Supposedly the Greens are driven by consensus anyway, so. . .

[ Parent ]

grass roots greens (none / 0) (#44)
by jmc on Fri May 25, 2001 at 09:38:34 PM EST

Interesting you should mention that; I'm planning a scoop-like site for the SF Green Party. If it becomes a useful tool for our local party, we would certainly make use of it at the state or national level. Even with grass roots support, it's very hard to keep people organized and motivated over the long haul, especially if you have very little money!

As far as your comments on Ross Perot, I think you're completely wrong. Although Perot did have more grass roots support than either Democrats or Republicans (which isn't saying much), what really drove his campaign was his massive wad of cash which he used to buy air time and free air time from Larry King. Nader has his own wad of cash, less massive than Perot's (epecially after the Cisco crash), but thought it would be more "grass roots" to run his campaign only on small individual contributions. Remember that tens of thousands of people turned out at Nader's Super Rallies to pay $10-20 and hear Nader speak, and compare that to the style of Perot's campaign. If you can come up with any quantitative measure of grass roots support (average campaign donation, crowd sizes), I'd bet you'll find Nader way ahead of Perot. Also, the Greens (as a grass roots organization) basically drafted Nader to run, whereas Perot founded his own party (a top down approach) to convey his ideas to the people.


[ Parent ]

flies in the ointment (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:31:37 PM EST

(1) Perot only agreed to run /if/ volunteers could get his name on the ballot in all fifty states. These voluteers got Perot's ballot with absolutely no funding from Perot.

(2) Perot's campaign was largely financed by contributions. Contributions that were arbitrarily limited in size by Perot. Ross's bank account certainly did help, but his spending was disproportionate to the number of votes he received. Perot got much better bang for the buck than Bush I or Clinton.

I'm not saying that the Greens have no grass roots support, only that you under estimate the amount of support that Perot had. If United We Stand hadn't fallen prey to schismatic politcs, chances are that they would have pulled in more votes than the Greens this election year. As it is, they drove all the good people out of the party for the sake of a well known name, Buchanan.

BTW, I'd be wholeheartedly into joining the Greens if it wasn't for their stance on "reproductive rights."

[ Parent ]

The AI campaign (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by fury on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:21:24 PM EST

Some of the candidates could use a page from the AI (the Spielberg movie) online campagin playbook.

30-second spots and soundbytes could be laced with clues that voters could take online to attempt to discover the candidate's secret agenda.

But seriously, I agree that candidates need to embrace the web as a primary method for interacting with the voters.

More to the point though, existing officeholders should use it. Sure I want to be able to dive into the candidates issues, but its even more important to interact with the people who are actually holding office. The last two presidential sites have been laughable, and most of the senators just got email access in the last 4 years...
Kevin Fox - fury.com

The diamond rule (4.33 / 12) (#16)
by error 404 on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:21:33 PM EST

The golden rule of designing a web site - or running a campaign - is to keep your intended audience in mind at ALL times.

But the diamond rule is to keep your intended message in mind. And the message for any major party candidate at this point is strictly Zen. No message. A few platitudes and no information at all. Just enough to prevent the absense of a message from being a message in itself.

The sites did exactly what they were designed to do: provide a slick web presence without giving the other side anything to attack.

The Nader site was more of a disapointment. He could have shown himself breaking the Washington rules by providing information. But he was playing the same attack-oriented game as the other two teams, where any information he gave could have been used against him.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Maybe the diamond rule is obsolete? (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by driptray on Fri May 25, 2001 at 12:12:58 AM EST

And the message for any major party candidate at this point is strictly Zen. No message. A few platitudes and no information at all. Just enough to prevent the absense of a message from being a message in itself....The sites did exactly what they were designed to do: provide a slick web presence without giving the other side anything to attack.

This is undoubtedly true, but the interesting issue is to what extent the internet represents an opportunity for this state of affairs to change.

Many people claim to want more information about candidates, and although people's claimed desires often don't match their eventual actions, in this case they just might. We don't really know, 'cos nobody's tried it yet. Up until recently it has been difficult to provide a lot of information to a lot of people, but we now have the perfect medium for it.

The risk is that you would provide a big target for your opponents to attack. But the potential benefit is being the pioneering visionary of a new age of political campaigning. And winning an election with a strategy that your opponent hasn't considered, and won't be able to develop a counter-strategy for with sufficient speed.

We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
EXACTLY! (none / 0) (#35)
by error 404 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:47:23 AM EST

A candidate with 'nads could use the web with devastating effect. But not a Republican or Democrat or even Nader. Those will use the web as another drop-point for the standard brochures, or as a collection point for donations.

I expect to see the occasional candidate emerge from total obscurity through the kind of flukes that happen on the web. What if the "I kiss you" guy had been an American and had "you vote me for President" on his site somewhere? With the right timing, that could have jerked in more votes than Nader got. And for a smaller race (House of Representatives, for example) it could even get the guy elected.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

The Revolution (tm) (none / 0) (#40)
by Duke Machesne on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:26:20 PM EST

Check out R.U. Sirius' site for his political party "The Revolution". He ran a somewhat underpublicized presidential campaign in 2000, but his platforms were/are excellent ("Victory Over Horseshit!")

arts schoolsweight loss
[ Parent ]

Interesting, but... (3.83 / 6) (#17)
by RareHeintz on Thu May 24, 2001 at 04:36:21 PM EST

I, too, would like to see the web used as a serious tool for dispensing information during campaigns. The problem, though, is not that the candidates lack the vision or technical savvy to do this; the problem is that they routinely choose to offer the electorate meaningless shibboleths and bald-faced lies in place of valuable information.

The question you ask (to paraphrase: "Why are candidates' websites devoted to soundbites and fluff instead of information?") could just as well apply to television, and one answer to the question is in the person of Ross Perot. He actually bought extended blocks of television time to explain his positions on (mostly fiscal) issues. His reward was 19% of the popular vote. On the up side, this shows that a candidate who uses mass media to be informative can make an impact. Unfortunately, it doesn't prove that anyone can win an election by going to the effort to hold an informed dialogue with the (lazy, undereducated, instant-gratification-adapted) American public.

I'm going to bet the same will apply to the Internet: You can inform all you want, and doing so may reach the occassional educated or disgruntled voter, but candidates will get more mileage from triggering people's knee-jerk responses and obfuscating their positions to avoid unsightly controversy.

On the other hand, there do exists organizations that attempt to add transparency to campaigns and use the Internet to disseminate useful information. One great resource that comes to mind is Common Cause - check them out.

OK, - B Note: Nothing I say should be construed as an endorsement of Ross Perot. However well he did some things, he's still a loon.

http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

Perot did well in 1992. (4.00 / 3) (#23)
by xdc on Thu May 24, 2001 at 07:34:17 PM EST

Although he didn't come close to winning the election, I think that 19% of the popular vote was a fantastic performance for H. Ross Perot in 1992.
  • As an independent, he drew a significant chunk of voters away from the Democrats and Republicans they would have normally voted for. That's a lot of people that were willing to jump out of their party grooves.
  • Perot withdrew from the presidential race and then restored his candidacy. This must have lost him a lot of potential votes, as voters reconsidered the soundness of the man's judgement and his ability to lead the country with said judgement.
  • His vice presidential nominee, Admiral Stockdale, appeared incompetent due to the advanced effects of aging. Again, this called into question Perot's judgement. But not only that. If President Perot were assassinated, Stockdale would have become the new president, in a time of national crisis! Yikes.
  • People disagreed with Perot on actual issues, such as NAFTA and abortion.
  • Being an independent, what sort of cooperation would Perot receive from the House and Senate? It was uncertain.
  • As a potential leader of the greatest nation on earth, his much-caricatured appearance and voice may have been cause for additional dissuasion to those not enchanted by his charisma. (Fair or not, it figured in.)
Bearing these hurdles in mind, and the fact that he was up against a president who had just kicked ass in Desert Storm, and a likable saxophone-playing governor who posessed even greater charisma, I think Perot's 19% stands as a very impressive figure.

This shows that Perot's advertising campaign was influential to the point that nearly one in five Americans was willing to trust him with leadership of the United States of America. It has also been argued that Perot sucked away votes that would have otherwise allowed Bush a second term in office, so even though Perot lost the election, he had quite an impact.

[ Parent ]

TV bad. (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by kuwaerufivechin on Fri May 25, 2001 at 07:44:04 AM EST

I'm no Perotista, but this "Stockdale's senile" myth is really infuriating--especially because this big-party-spun fairy tale seems to be repeated only by people who consider themselves above the manipulations of the media.

Dennis Miller summarized it pretty well after the election:

Now I know his name has become a buzzword in this culture for 'doddering old man,' but let's look at the record, folks. The guy was the first guy in and the last guy out of Vietnam, a war that many Americans, including our present President, did not want to dirty their hands with. The reason he had to turn his hearing aid on at that debate is because those fucking animals knocked his eardrums out when he wouldn't spill his guts. He teaches philosophy at Stanford University. He's a brilliant, sensitive, courageous man. And yet he committed the one unpardonable sin in our culture: he was bad on television. Somewhere out there Paddy Chayefsky must be laughing his ass off. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Could he have been our Vice President? Of course he could've been our Vice President. You think Al Gore is a charismatic visionary? His favorite film is Tron, for Christ's sake.

[The Chayefsky ref is to the movie Network, BTW.]

I mean, we're trying to save the whales. They're stuck up there. --FZ
[ Parent ]
TV unflattering to Stockdale (none / 0) (#36)
by xdc on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:51:28 AM EST

I certainly don't wish to diminish Stockdale's honorable military record. However, the office of vice president demands a lot of interaction with policymakers, meeting foreign leaders/reps, etc. I'll concede that one can be competent in real life and lousy on TV. So how were voters supposed to know that the man they saw stammering uncomfortably was competent to be VP (and possibly president) of the USA for the next four years? Most people would excuse the hearing aid incident, but Stockdale appeared to have more difficulties than just hearing loss. And this isn't the 19th century. Isn't it reasonable to expect that our leaders be presentable on television?

I watched the 1992 debates, and got my own impressions of the candidates. At least in my case, it would be inaccurate to characterize as a "big-party-spun fairy tale" my impression of Admiral Stockdale.

To address the end of Miller's blockquote, no, Al Gore never struck me as a charismatic visionary. He only seemed to gain charisma (very well, I might add) during the 2000 election. My anti-charisma is strong. :)

[ Parent ]

my opinon on Perot's 1992 run (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 08:35:25 AM EST

I think that Perot intentionally chose Admiral Stockdale as an insurance policy against getting elected. I don't think any sane man or woman that truly understands what being president os the US entails actually wants the position. And despite the characatures of Perot as a loony bird, I do think that he is quite sane.

I think that his presidential bid for him was nothing more than a combination of a deep-seated dislike of George H. W. Bush and an ego boost. It was a game to him and one that he enjoyed immensely. How many people get to go toe to toe with the candidates for the US president and insult them in subtle and sly ways?

That said, in 1992 I voted for Perot. My vote wasn't so much because I liked him, but because I thought that if he did win that the ensuing chaos in D.C. would be good for our country in shaking up the stagnant gridlock that has been the situation for most of our modern era.

To this day, I wonder how accurate the exit polls from 1992 were. More than one poll stated that if everyone who wanted to vote for Perot did, he would have won. It seems a large number of people refused to vote for him simply because they didn't think that anyone besides a demopublican could win and they didn't want to "waste" their vote.

[ Parent ]

I think you're right (none / 0) (#51)
by dennis on Sun Jun 03, 2001 at 06:55:53 PM EST

How else to explain the way he flamed out, if he wasn't purposely sabotaging his own campaign? I'm picturing him checking the election results, chuckling as he fires up a cigar, and saying "Well Larry, that was fun!"

[ Parent ]
tv (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by akb on Sat May 26, 2001 at 03:10:16 PM EST

You didn't mention Perot's ability to purchase 1/2 chunks of prime time on national tv. All his "charm" would have gone for naught had he not done this. It allowed him to get his numbers high enough to get into the debates and get even more visibility and make the other candidates have to acknowledge his existence, something the Nader campaign wasn't able to do.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

Web-user turnout (2.66 / 3) (#22)
by weirdling on Thu May 24, 2001 at 06:57:41 PM EST

I remember during the election how most people I knew who were on the internet more than casually simply didn't care. Nader tried hard to capture this audience and the Libertarian Party made a huge number of converts through the web, but the dupolists have no real constituency on the web, at least none likely to resonate and/or vote. However, I would like to point out that the LP website is very similar to what you have pointed out, with the exception of voting history and personal journal. I'd like to see Congress and the Senate have a searchable database of voting records, anyway...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Anyone.. (2.00 / 3) (#24)
by DeadBaby on Thu May 24, 2001 at 08:15:15 PM EST

Anyone who is smart enough to use the internet to research their vote is probably smart enough to find all that info elsewhere. First party sites are pointless and just PR fluff. I can't see them ever being anything more.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
internet and campaigns (3.00 / 4) (#26)
by Delirium on Fri May 25, 2001 at 01:11:05 AM EST

The first person or group to make full use of the internet's unique capabilities as a medium during their campaign is most likely going to dominate the 2004 elections.

While it'd certainly give them an advantage, I'm not sure if it'd be enough to of itself make them *dominate* the election. A great deal of Americans still either do not use the Internet or use it only infrequently. The percentage of us who use it as an integral parts of our lives and as a primary source of news and information is really still quite small. And of course the main thing in elections is finding some issue which is important to a lot of Americans and on which you can make yourself appear to be "on their side" (bonus points if you can make your opponent appear to be on the mythical "other side" that is the opposite of theirs). You can run a really great campaign from a mechanical and technical standpoint, but if your message doesn't resonate it won't do any good, regardless of whether it's on the Internet or elsewhere.

Community and politics (2.66 / 3) (#28)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Fri May 25, 2001 at 03:38:03 AM EST

Have a look at the Votes Library. It's a collaborative writing web site motor, implementing a mix of participative and representative democracies.
I believe it would be perfect for online politics, wether it be discussions, decision making, texts writing, news...
The web site is being redesigned at the time, new template, new specifications, I'll try to repost them as a whitebook on advogato and here...

naaahhh (3.25 / 4) (#29)
by lower triangular on Fri May 25, 2001 at 05:18:08 AM EST

Just two thoughts
  • If you put a lot of effort into providing material for your online campaign, you're marketing to "people who care about politics" ... half of these people already vote for you, half will _never_vote for you. The interested but nonpartisan voter is a myth ... or at least, a small enough group to ignore. All you're doing is putting a whole load of information out there so that people who hate you can sift through it looking for some minor inconsistency to hang you on.
  • if you're selling a product, you want a clean, clear, simple message. putting all that shit on the web just confuses everything. "Vote Gore" is two words, it tells you what to do and how to do it. An overload of information just makes the market confused and makes people think that hey, there's some things here I don't like, maybe I shouldn't vote Gore at all.
And here's a bonus idea for ya ... if Fox News can't find enough time to get a coherent overview of the policies ... if the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times can't ... if the candidates themselves can't come up with consistent positions ... then maybe it's a helluva difficult thing to do! Everyone except maybe two or three poli sci professors just votes for the guy who looks like he might not be an asshole ... which is how Clinton beat Dole and why nobody could decide between Bush and Gore.

Linux - the ultimate Windows Service Pack!
Windows - the ultimate Linux Productivity Suite!

Wrong premise. It was all marketing. (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by Rasvar on Fri May 25, 2001 at 09:01:58 AM EST

Online campaigns will never work in these days because of just what you said:
    Provide details about a candidate's past voting record
    Provide more insight into the candidate as a person
    Allow and encourage public discussion with the candidate

Every single one of these items are what campaigns do not want to do anymore. Right or wrong, that is the way it is. Nothing solid. Just buzzwords and soundbytes. After Bush's "No New Taxes" pledge backfired, no presidential candidate has to guts to take a difinitive stand on any issue, just in case he has to change his tune.

Welcome to the world of presidential politics where marketing is everything and substance is deceased.

Interest Groups is where it's at (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by cod on Fri May 25, 2001 at 09:09:23 AM EST

Interest groups are using the Internet to affect real change on public policy. The major parties, by definition, have to appeal to evreybody on every issue and the best way to do that (as pointed out by many others here) is to make a lot of noise without saying anything. Special interest groups, on the other hand, can and do use the Internet very effectively. The LP used email lists and a dedicated web site last year to shoot down the "know your neighbor" legislation that would have required banks to keep the govt informed of your financial moves. The NRA has done the same thing on gun related issues. This is particularly effective at the state level where a few hundred calls to the state house can shoot down a bill or insure its passage. The danger of this, IMO, is that it polorizes the isues even more as people focus on their pet issues and pretty much ignore the big picture.

Campaigns are about EQ, not IQ (3.00 / 3) (#34)
by Wondertoad on Fri May 25, 2001 at 09:09:51 AM EST

Politicians and candidates don't seek to rank as far as IQ goes. Intelligence doesn't win elections, emotion does. And so campaigns and marketers take about "EQ" - emotional quotient.

If it takes longer than 5 words to sum up a candidacy, the candidacy is lost. Candidates have to be sold, similarly to how soap is sold. Like Ivory is that pure soap, Dial is that soap with deodorant, W. is that compassionate conservative, you know the drill.

To that end, the advertising of URLs on podium fronts and backdrops was not intended to get you to go to the candidate sites. It was intended to make you feel that each candidate is the candidate who "gets" technology. Because for each K5 user who does understand the full implications of a site, there are 1,000 senior citizens who barely know that the net exists -- and they vote MUCH harder and more consistently than we do.

Gore's "invented the internet" line came across as a brazen lie -- because Gore's interest in the interview was not to carefully state facts, but to come across as "the technology candidate". Similar was Gore's "open source" goof. When Gore's site claimed to be "open source", the intention was not to truly have an open source web site. The intention was to cast out a few recent buzzwords to make Gore seem cutting-edge.

And I'll wager that Bush won more votes with his "internet can turn a kid's heart black" line than Gore did with all of his "technology initiative" lines, because Bush had a higher EQ.

I mean, come on - for a while the election looked as if it would turn because a ton of voters didn't have the ability to comprehend an entirely manual, albeit poorly-designed balloting process.

Lastly, any truly accurate accounting of a politician's voting history, positions, background, etc. can only lose votes. In a society where individualism rules, and popular opinion is fragmenting, actually appealing to the majority of the country is very difficult indeed. Ventura's approach worked only because it was a 3-way election, in a state where voters can register to vote on election day.

Candidates scurry like roaches when the harsh light of reality is shined on them, and for good reason. In a more enlightened time, many of them would be behind bars.

It did turn the election... (none / 0) (#49)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon May 28, 2001 at 08:49:13 PM EST

I don't get this:
"I mean, come on - for a while the election looked as if it would turn because a ton of voters didn't have the ability to comprehend an entirely manual, albeit poorly-designed balloting process."

According to cnn, there were about 6600 such mistakes made, more than enough to turn the election. So why do you say "for a while...looked as if"? It still looks that way by the numbers I've seen. The election did turn on stupidity.

[ Parent ]

Politics shouldn't begin and end with campaigns (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by tapir on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:48:53 AM EST

The Tompkins County Green Party has been working on a political site that expects to get people involved in politics continuously, not just around election time.


The goal isn't so much to win votes for a particular candidate, but more to encourage people to become activists. Since our site has a user management system, we think it's actually ~more~ sophisticated than the sites of the national democratic and republican parties.

There still are serious challenges. The primary audience for the site is the 100,000 who live in Tompkins County. People who are interested in Green politics are, I think, less likely to own a computer then the general population (either they don't have the money or they just don't want it in their lifestyle.) Unlike kuro5hin.org, we aren't just targeting tech-saavy "early adopters", so our users tend to have a harder time using interactive features, such as message boards, on the site. On the other hand, our weekly e-mail announcement are a big hit.

The small pool of users that we're starting with makes it harder to establish a "critical mass" to make interactive features going -- a site that gets 1,000 hits per day from Tompkins County is the marketing equivalent of a USA-targeted site that gets 3 million hits per day. It's certainly a problem that it's less likely to get participation from and links from people who live outside the county because it's perceived as being a local-interest thing. On the other hand, it is a quality site, so I think it will get links, get in the search engines more and more, and eventually get more active... The Green party has been growing in the US since 1984, and it's going to be a few more years before we become the big force for change that America needs.

Demonstration of election spin through satellites (2.00 / 2) (#38)
by Anon6731 on Fri May 25, 2001 at 11:50:50 AM EST

This would be a good time to remind everyone to check out Spin by Brian Springer.

It is a documentary about the 1992 presidential election showing how the politicians and media used technology to create the news we saw (and thus shaping the outcome of the election and our opinions).

Available in DivX and RealPlayer both!

use the net's strengths (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by akp on Fri May 25, 2001 at 02:15:44 PM EST

(Reading back over this, I think that I put the best ideas towards the bottom. Sorry.)

1) Post both your and your opponent's voting records/stated public policy. Editorialize on both (though be careful to keep the facts and the editorial content separate). It's likely that everyone's voting record will be available online eventually, but the candidate that puts them up first (or, better, indexes them first) wll have quite an advantage.

2) Use the website as a full news site for campaign coverage. These days, most (not all) mainstream reporters are lazy--witness the predominance of wire reports and corporate press releases in newspapers today. If you can get reporters to write articles based on information on your website, you'll have a great advantage. (This would probably work best on slow news days.)

3) Use the website to respond to your opponent's statements. Try to make it understood that if your opponent says _anything_ bad about you or your record, that there will be a response on your website as soon as you get a chance. Chastise any reporter who repeats your opponent's accusations without including your response, or, better, linking to your response, so that if your opponent changes his statements, you can change your answers.

4) If you can get permission, link to favorable news coverage.

5) The net has great distributed power. Use it. Have a page that suggests actions that your supporters can do. Suggest topics for letters to the editor. Organize protest calls to TV networks that you think give biased coverage. Tell your supporters how to respond to your opponent's points, or just say 'If you hear anyone repeat this statement, respond like this, and then refer the person to this website.' (An advocacy guide would be necessary here.)

6) Connected to the above, let your supporters contribute to your website. Not directly, obviously, but you could put up a request for articles on certain topics. If you get a good one, then you can post it, and incorporate those ideas into your own rhetoric. In other words, open source some of your campaign.

These are just some thoughts--I don't think that I'd want to try them out without some serious consideration first. Still, I think that they show just some of the ways that candidates could use the web for more effective campaigns...


Devils Advocate (3.66 / 3) (#42)
by MrAcheson on Fri May 25, 2001 at 02:33:49 PM EST

So your idea is basically this: Allocate lots more campaign funding to the internet in the form of unique site content and staff/candidate time which could potentially go to much better use somewhere else. Your justification for doing this is that the internet is a great medium to reach a diverse audience.

Sounds nice in theory but the problems are these. The websites are not proven to reach a wide audience. In fact the average heavy user of the internet that said website might involve is a demographic who doesn't usually bother to vote because they are young and generally apathetic about politics. So while this might tap an untapped demographic like Jesse Ventura did in his campaign, it will most likely be a waste of money.

In fact the websites have been proven from past experiences to be barely worth running in terms of expenses because they have negligible impact on the electorate. Your reasoning for this is that they weren't running the website right, but you have no data to back that up. In addition to this some of your ideas, like voting history, have proven to be a detriment to a candidate not an aid. Campaigns are won by getting the undecided third of the electorate to like and to some extent trust you, not by having better stands on the issues.

Lastly your website will consume an all important campaign resource - the candidate's time. Candidates running for election barely have time to sleep and you want them to start keeping diaries, responding to message boards, and commenting on their past voting histories for an unproven campaign resource? I don't think so.

So in short, the internet needs to mature so that the average website user/contributor is actually likely to vote. This all needs to be (a) proven to be effective which it isn't and (b) capable of being done cheaply and within a reasonable amount of the candidates time which it won't.

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.

Yup, but that isn't the fault of the premise (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by jet_silver on Sat May 26, 2001 at 01:04:46 PM EST

So in short, the internet needs to mature so that the average website user/contributor is actually likely to vote. This all needs to be (a) proven to be effective which it isn't and (b) capable of being done cheaply and within a reasonable amount of the candidates time which it won't.

All these things are true to the extent that military doctrine is about fighting the last war. Television was the medium that probably gave Bush his win, right? It doesn't follow that that will happen next time. Bush wasn't exactly up against the varsity when he tried to look good next to "Woody" Gore, anyway.

There is too much assuming going on in the article and in the response. People are assuming that means of winning an election will not change. It will but not first by design. There will probably be some kind of lucky accident on ICQ or a weblog that winds up being the way to reach voters. Politicians aren't going to -try- to make that happen because political advertising is conservative. It'll just happen one day, like the sudden appearance of amihotornot. If I'm guessing right, it won't happen for a while - but the fact you can become well-informed on the Internet will lead to more informed people. They will start driving the dialogue because they will then be able to.

As for details of a political past, name me one serving politician who would put up such a thing. They all have too many historical elements they'd rather gloss over. It's even hard to blame them in that, given the blizzard of detail in the average bill (riders, support deals, and so on) that make deciding on a vote much less straightforward than one would think.

The fact that it takes time and effort to put together a Web site is no excuse for not doing it well (not that we have seen a well-done political Web site yet). The other thing required to get a compelling site is ingredient X. Someone's going to find it.
"What they really fear is machine-gunning politicians becoming a popular sport, like skate-boarding." -Nicolas Freeling
[ Parent ]

don't mess up the chick/egg relation here (none / 0) (#56)
by B'voYpenburg on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 06:00:41 AM EST

Guess why people aren't interested in politics?? Because politicians are born to say nothing informative.

I do think that websites can enhance the election, but not unless it ads something relevant. It has to give another experience... I don't know if this guy hits it on the head though.

[ Parent ]
Online Campaigns (from Bill Bradley's IT Director) (1.71 / 7) (#52)
by malloc on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 09:53:59 PM EST

BoredAtWork misses several points in his article. Campaign websites did something enormously important for the first time in 2000: RAISED MONEY. It was the Bradley campaign that successfully asked the FEC to allow campaigns to take online donations for the first time ever. The Bradley campaign's webmaster was Lynn Reed (netpoliticsgroup.com), who had the same role on the Clinton-Gore '96 campaign. Lynn won so many awards for the Bradley website, it raised so much money and we got so much positive feedback from people, that I fail to see how you can claim : "Since a truly effective online campaign has never been put together before..." How do you define "truly effective?" Another example of the Bradley campaign's "true effectiveness" is revealed in the following quote from Time Magazine: "Kimberly Keubrich Yordi did not find Bill Bradley on eBay....For the 39-year old mother of three, her home-office was no place for politics. Then she learned about http://www.billbradley.com. Last week she signed on, studied the candidate's positions and learned the arcane incantations necessary to vote for him in the Iowa caucuses....she says of the process she ducked in previous years, 'I wouldn't be going if it weren't for the computer.' " [Time Magazine, Jan. 31, 2000] In other words, the Bill Bradley website produced REAL RESULTS (VOTES) in the Iowa Caucus. Check out this URL for further evidence of how effective the Bradley Campaign's website was: http://www.netpoliticsgroup.com/bradley.html . BoredAtWork, seems to be a know-nothing college punk who is media-whoring over his head. Try building a major campaign website or working in big-time politics before armchair quarterbacking the pros.

Online Campaigns (from Bill Bradley's IT Director) (5.00 / 4) (#53)
by BOredAtWork on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 01:41:37 PM EST

Your article on kuro5hin.org misses several points.

I'm sure that it does. I said,

"I think there are three key things any successful online campaign should do. Each one assumes a standard mainstream media campaign also being run before the election. If the three are done well, I believe that the campaign would reach many more voters than any we've seen so far.
Where exactly did I claim that I'd authored the Complete Guide To Running a Successful Campaign? There have been volumes written on how to campaign, how to design successful web sites and how to persuade people - my column touched on all three topics, and weighed in at a relatively light 1862 words. Hardly comprehensive, or complete.

Campaign websites did something enormously important for the first time in 2000: RAISED MONEY. It was the Bradley campaign that successfully asked the FEC to allow campaigns to take online donations.

I'm certainly not going to argue that this wasn't important. I am curious, though, about two points.

  1. How much of the Bradley campaign's success in asking the FEC to allow online donations was really just a matter of being in the right place at the right time? In 1996, the internet wasn't nearly as mainstream, and the concept of internet-based financial transactions was just starting to take shape. Buying a product online was much more a novelty than a convenience. In 2000, the internet was already a tried-and-true way to conduct financial transactions. Online ordering was already mainstream. I hardly think the Bradley campaign was visionary in simply taking the next logical step. I'm not saying that taking online contributions is in any way a small thing, but doing so would have been much more impressive in 1996.

  2. How much of the money donated online would have been donated anyway if the ability to do it online was not available? In other words, how much of the internet contribution money was donated by people who wanted to donate to the Bradley campaign, and selected the internet over a phone bank just because of the convenience, and how much of the contribution money was donated by people who were just browsing the Bradley site, and were persuaded then and there to donate? My guess is that it's only a small percentage of the donations that fall into the second group. Did the campaign collect any statistics on this...?

...I fail to see how you can claim : "Since a truly effective online campaign has never been put together before..."

How do you define "truly effective?"

Votes. Plain and simple. Voter turnout in the US is always low. Most politicians constantly lament the number of non-interested voters. They spend millions to speak at college campuses, minority functions and anywhere else that they think they can reach those who just don't care about the election. EVERY politician wants those non-interested voters to become supporters. A truly effective campaign site would, in my opinion, help get people motivated to get out and vote, by complimenting the other mediums being used in the campaign. Ralph Nader himself has said that his online campaign made very little difference in voter turnout. To quote him:

"...We had six people working full-time in front of a computer, going into major constituency group, that we thought might resonate with our agenda - agriculture, environment, labor. We know now that the Internet didn't increase the overall turnout. There was massive use of the Internet by all parties, but turnout barely went up. So I'm not sure that was a good use of their time.
In other words, the Bill Bradley website produced REAL RESULTS (VOTES) in the Iowa Caucus.

The question is, "how many votes did it produce...?" Since Bill Bradley didn't secure his party's nomination, I think that it's reasonable to answer the question with "not enough." The next question is, "how many votes should it have produced...?" I'm not suggesting that Mr. Bradley's online campaign didn't win votes, and I'm not suggesting that ANY candidate's online campaign didn't have its success stories. I am suggesting that none of the major online campaigns this past election had nearly enough success stories, or produced enough votes to be called a truly effective.

BoredAtWork seems to be a know-nothing college punk who is media-whoring over his head. Try building a major campaign website or working in big-time politics before armchair quarterbacking the pros.

You know the great thing about the political system in this country? It's designed so that us "know-nothing college punks" can still have an opinion and make it heard. Not only that, but some would actually call it a civic duty to "armchair quarterback the pros." In this country, one doesn't have to be middle aged, wealthy and hold a degree political science to have a right to speak their mind and voice their concerns to their elected officials or potential elected officials. "Of the people, by the people, and for the people" - does that ring any bells? I pay my taxes just like every other voter, and whether you like the idea or not, I'll exercise that right as often as I wish.

As for the charge of "media whoring," I don't think you understand kuro5hin (the fact that this was your first comment posted also suggests that you're new here). This is a community-edited site - anyone can write whatever they wish, and the rest of the users vote on what's worth discussing and what gets nuked. There's an outright paranoia here about media whoring - anyone writing just to pat themself on the back or make a redundant point simply to appeal to the masses in hopes of scoring popularity points usually has their material voted out of existance rather quickly. Very few articles make it to the front page for discussion, and the fact that this was one of them suggests that a large percentage of kuro5hin users found it (at the very least) interesting and worthy of discussion. And just for the record, a large number of kuro5hin users are young professionals or "college punks" (soon-to-be-professionals), and will be voting for years to come.

[ Parent ]

IT Director... (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by pqbon on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:40:16 PM EST

So you did managed the servers and bandwidth. How does that make YOU a source for a discussion about content?

With all that the web is capable it's a sad statement that politicians didn't think about raising money over the web untill 2000. E-Commerce was essentially old hat by then... So now you happy about riding the trailing edge of the technology wave? It's no wonder congress and others don't understand Napster. If it takes 4+ years to figure out E-Comerce no wonder the governemnt can't make heads or tail of Napster.

So you say Lynn Reed was the webmaster for Clinton/Gore in '96. So? That isn't great credential since you can't name anything that was great about that site. What I read is it took her a second go (Bill Bradley's 00 site) to figure out anything... and that was just Ecommerce. If I was running for office I wouldn't hire her for my site.

I would also point out that if you are Bill Bradley's IT Directory Lynn Reed is at least a co-worker if not a friend. So you being impressed by her use to Ecommerce isn't surprizing. Why now site an example that you didn't have any personal responsiablity for?

To follow your own track: You seem to be a little man stuck in the laughable tech sector of PolySci and should get a real job doing IT for a real organziation so that your credentials aren't quite so laughable.

"...That probably would have sounded more commanding if I wasn't wearing my yummy sushi pajamas..."

-Buffy Summers
[ Parent ]

Effectiveness (none / 0) (#55)
by eann on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:48:49 PM EST

You make excellent points. And it's definitely a major step to allow contributions online.

But it could also be argued that Mr. Bradley's web site was not as effective as it needed to be, where it counted the most. It didn't get enough people interested enough to go vote for him in their states' primaries.

BOredAtWork's suggestions were all valid. I skimmed the article again, and it looked to me like he was adding ideas to what he saw as less-than-optimal sites from Al and Prince George. He neither attacked you nor even really claimed he could have done better. You seem awfully defensive about an article that discusses the shortcomings of other people's web sites. If Bradley had won the Democratic nomination, I'm sure it would've been a different article (and election) entirely.

I agree with the original thesis. The candidate who uses the Internet to its full potential will have the opportunity to totally dominate the election. If Bill Bradley runs again in 3 years, I hope the staff that manages his web (or whatever) presence will isten to these kinds of suggestions, instead of dismissing them. The so-called "armchair quarterbacks" are your fans and your constituents; if you piss them off, they'll go do something else with their time and money.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

[ Parent ]
Look to the mid-terms (none / 0) (#57)
by epcraig on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 01:43:00 PM EST

2002, somebody, maybe another third party candidate, is liable to get it in 2002. Whether it's a Senate, House, or Governer, possibly a major mayoral race, it'll be noticed if it's an upset.
If it's a major party candidate who comes from a lead, it might be ignored, but if somebody either comes from behind or out of a third party and points at her web usage to explain her victory, everybody in 2004 will try to emulate her.
There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org
Online campaigns - why the've been so poorly done, and how to run them right | 57 comments (54 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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